Could Macron’s Fight Against ‘Fake News’ Set A Dangerous Precedent?

French President Emmanuel Macron announced at his annual address on Jan. 3rd that he is going to propose new rules that will crack down on fake news during the French elections this year.

This stance is by no means a new attitude of Macron’s, considering that he has experienced attempts at political sabotage before, most notably in the form of the Russian cyber-attacks and the supposed spread of false information during his election campaign; Which led to state-run Russian news outlets RT and Sputnik being banned from accessing events.

While Macron came out victorious in his election race against Le Pen, the experience seems to have affected Macron’s view of social media as a political platform. He has since adopted a much more strict outlook on such issues.

“When fake news are spread, it will be possible to go to a judge … and if appropriate have content taken down, user accounts deleted and ultimately websites blocked,” said Macron in his annual address on Jan. 3rd, according to Politico.

There was also a proposition of overhauling media legislation.

“There will be increased transparency requirements for internet platforms regarding sponsored content, with the aim of making public the identity of those who place the ads and also limiting the amount of them.” said Macron.

Fortunately, social media sites are already taking steps towards increased transparency.

“To make it clear when you are seeing or engaging with an electioneering ad, we will now require that electioneering advertisers identify their campaigns as such,” said Twitter. “We will also change the look and feel of these ads and include a visual political ad indicator.”

It also added that it would disclose the total cost of all ad campaigns and share who purchased them. Information will also be made available to users about ads that specifically targeted them, as well as which personalized information made them eligible for such targeting.

Facebook soon followed suit with a similar plan to address political ads, requiring advertisers to verify their identities, providing users with details on how much was spent on ads and other additional information.

Vice President of Ads, Rob Goldman stated that the company is “deeply committed to helping protect the integrity of the electoral process on Facebook. And we will continue to work with our industry partners, lawmakers and our entire community to better ensure transparency and accountability in our advertising products.”

“There will be increased transparency requirements for internet platforms regarding sponsored content, with the aim of making public the identity of those who place the ads and also limiting the amount of them.” Said Macron.

One of three cosponsors of the “Honest Ads Act”, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, praised the initiative taken by the social media giants.

“A good first step, particularly public disclosure of ads info. Online political ads need more transparency & disclosure. We need #HonestAds.”

Whether or not these steps taken by social media giants like Facebook and Twitter will be enough for political institutions remains to be seen but it’s worth keeping an eye on. The implementation of transparency when it comes to ads and those who fund them is a step is the right direction, but too much control is a slippery slope.

Freedom of information is important, even if it doesn’t favor one personally. Shutting down social media during an election seems less like an attempt at protecting democracy than a frustrated attempt at censorship.

Feature Photo:  Credit to Tracy Le Blanc on Pexels.com
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